The Dangers of Chasing Lifetime Status

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Platinum for Life! Gold Guest List for Life!  What’s not to like? It sounds fantastic… a deserving reward for a lifetime of “loyalty” to an airline or hotel chain.  Of course, lifetime doesn’t always mean YOUR lifetime… just ask a lifetime elite member of BMI Diamond Club how well that worked out for them…

However, why would airline or hotel executives just give away elite benefits forever? I can guarantee you that “loyalty” – at least on a two-way basis – has absolutely nothing to do with it! Instead, the lure of “lifetime” status is one way of holding on to customers that might otherwise be thinking of making a change. And that is dangerous for those of us “travel hackers” who try to use loyalty programmes to our own advantage. Here is my situation, where try as I may… I struggle to escape the lure of lifetime status…

Marriott Lifetime Platinum

With the launch of Marriott Bonvoy, a new system of lifetime status was implemented. You can essentially ignore Lifetime Silver and Lifetime Gold, as the benefits of those levels of status are rubbish, to put it bluntly…

Platinum, on the other hand, is a very valuable elite status to hold. Platinum members receive:

  • Room upgrades (subject to availability but potentially including suites)
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out (except at resorts where it is subject to availability)
  • Bonus points, both welcome amenity points and a 50% bonus on the standard 10 points per US dollar spent
  • Lounge access
  • Free breakfast at most, but not all, Marriott brands.

My Situation

Since Platinum status with Marriott Bonvoy normally requires 50+ nights per calendar year to achieve, the prospect of reaching Lifetime Platinum status can be very tempting. No more late-year mattress runs. No more Excel spreadsheets to track progress towards those 50 nights. As a lifetime Platinum, whenever a Marriott Bonvoy property worked for me, I would be able to book it and know I’d get my valuable (to me) elite benefits.

And I’m relatively close…

I’ve already reached the 600 night hurdle, but require 3 more years as a Platinum member.With 50 nights in each of 2020, 2021 and 2022 I’d be there…


A few weeks ago Rob at HeadforPoints received a lot of flak when he gave a special “Editor’s Choice” award to Marriott Bonvoy. I happen to agree with him. In my opinion Marriott Bonvoy is certainly the BEST DESIGNED hotel loyalty programme. There really is a lot to like, ranging from:

  • Elite benefits that are valuable, and actually delivered
  • An excellent earn/burn ratio, with airline miles as a strong alternative to hotel nights for spending your points
  • Cashback on paid rates
  • Hotels absolutely everywhere, with brands ranging from aspirational luxury to cheap one-nighters

However, Marriott Bonvoy’s design is being let down by horrible implementation and lousy customer service. Would I really choose Marriott Bonvoy today, knowing that:

  • The IT systems have been in meltdown since Day 1. The latest problems are “zombie reservations“, whose cancellation does not actually reach the hotel and a random re-pricing of award stays (never in your favour of course).
  • Many paid stays do not post points/elite nights to your account and require chasing.
  • Best Rate Guarantee claims are now much more difficult to find.
  • Bonus point promotions don’t run year round, and even when available, most Bonvoy promotions are simply not lucrative enough to make a difference
  • The peak / off-peak award chart seems to offer lots of “peak” dates and very few “off-peak” dates, at least for those hotels I’m interested in visiting.
  • If you have to deal with customer service, your problem may never be resolved. Senior management clearly doesn’t care either.

The Grass Isn’t Necessarily Greener…

After several years enjoying hotel elite status, I can say quite definitively, at least for my own travel habits and preferences, that IHG simply doesn’t cut it, despite Joe’s best efforts to convince me otherwise.

Hilton could be an option – a useful level of elite status can be achieved for far less than 50 nights per year – but I like to earn hotel points that retain their value. Hilton’s regular and repeated overnight award pricing changes destroy my trust in Hilton Honors. And apart from a few luxury hotels in Asia, I’ve never felt that Diamond or Gold status made much of a difference in terms of room upgrades, etc.

Hyatt Globalist would remain the obvious choice for me, but there’s no question that finding 60 nights in a calendar year to stay at a Hyatt requires (at the very least) some sub-optimal hotel choices to go along with those guaranteed suite upgrades at Asian beach resorts.

And, of course, free agency is an option – simply choosing whatever hotel works best in each situation – however I spent many years travelling that way, and “you get what you pay for” doesn’t work for me.  In fact, if I’d paid more attention earlier in my career – during those 6 years with SPG Gold status – I’d already have my lifetime status..


Is it worth staying with Marriott Bonvoy 50 nights during 2020? I’d really say no… Although I’m just one out of millions of Bonvoy members, management really needs to get the message that there are serious issues that require fixing…. IMMEDIATELY!

Yet the lure of lifetime status is strong… and once I give up on Marriott Platinum status, would I ever bother to get it back?

What do you think? Do you completely ignore your progress towards lifetime status? Or does it entice you to make decisions that might not be optimal? Let us know in the comments section…



  1. Gtellez says

    I completely agree with you. Although I love my Titanium Status, Marriott has many issues right now…
    Just during last month I had to contact them three times: one booking was not posted (once I issues the claim, they were posted in less than 2 hours); I could not use my 75 nights free certificate (when trying to book with this, the website was only offering me to pay with points, so the agent had to book it with points and the request a change to attached the certificate); and during my last stay the points were not properly booked (I paid 590 euros after taxes but receive points as 597 dollars…). This last issue happens all the times, I don’t know what exchange rate they use really…. but once you call the it is usually fix quickly… it seems that they are trying to rip you off.

  2. Pangolin says

    It will be worth if for me – once the new CC comes out and I get 15 free nights to make the Platinum total just 35 nights. I know that I can hit that target without too much pain (last year I managed 35 nights, while also staying enough in Hilton to secure Gold for this year).

    I’m actually close to you on LTP years (6) and since I should hopefully be Plat for this year (thanks to soft landing) it will be 7 at the start of next year. I’m way short of your total on nights though. One of my Plat years came from doing the Marriott Challenge (from Marriott Gold) and during the integration year I got one year counted from each program. For SPG, I always got Platinum status via the 25-stay rule.

    I’ve enjoyed Hilton Diamond for this last year and a half (via status match) and it’s been fine but I have to agree with your comments above. It’s a good backup programme but I’ve not seen anything that convinces me to switch permanently from Bonvoy – and the lure of that Lifetime Platinum is keeping me on board!

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Yeah… in hindsight I should have pushed through to 75 nights last year, then took 2020 “off” to accept the soft landing for 2021. Then potentially a Platinum Challenge in 2022.

      Which then means I should actually consider doing 75 nights in 2020. lmao…

      It’s just so hard to find real data points that prove that Challenge years and soft-landed years count for lifetime status. Especially since Marriott IT would screw up and you’d need a manual intervention.

      • Joe Deeney says

        Yep, I wouldn’t pursue anything with Marriott at the moment that wasn’t completely vanilla – the chances of them changing things/messing it up are way too high. That said, I think in your circumstances I would carry on targeting lifetime Plat (but just by 35/50 nights a year).

        Marriott Plat is the only hotel status I don’t currently have that I would genuinely like – despite the bonvoy problems (and no real elite benefits as Gold) I still end up staying with them quite a bit.

      • Pangolin says

        I *did* get one year counted from doing the Platinum challenge (that was before the full integration though but I’d imagine they haven’t changed anything). I completed the challenge at the end of July so didn’t get enough nights in for status earned the normal way (which is why it made sense to do the challenge).

        A soft landing should also count but the only way I would know for sure is if I didn’t manage to qualify for Plat this year (and if I get accepted for the Bonvoy CC it’s unlikely I wouldn’t manage that).

  3. joe bloggs says

    I agree wth Joe’s thoughts. certainly if you are normally in the ballpark of 50 nights a year anyway, then at this stage it’s a target worth going for. However Given Marriott’s recent history, I would not be setting in stone thoughts that platinum benefits in 3 years time will be the same as platinum benefits today.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Downgrading benefits is certainly a risk, but I really don’t think that Marriott (or any other hotel chain) is stupid enough to have three levels of lifetime status, none of which actually worth anything.

      But gradually pushing some benefits up to Titanium only and bringing in lifetime Titanium is certainly possible, especially if the plan is to push credit cards with 15 or more elite nights.

      • Pangolin says

        Well I certainly hope they don’t pull the rug from under Platinum by removing any of the important benefits – lounge access, free breakfast (mostly), 4pm checkout and possibility of upgrades (as long as you know how to push for them).

        Downgrading Platinum would kill the programme for me, and I’m sure for many others. It would be an open goal for Hilton to hoover up all the disaffected.

        And if they were sneaky enough to introduce LT Titanium over the top of LTP, they’d probably add insult to injury by making the target 1000 nights (and 10 years).
        They probably couldn’t do that because they’d have to decide what counts as a Titanium year. Would it be 75 nights since the integration? 75 nights even before the integration? This would open up a massive can of worms and I think it’s why they realised that it wasn’t gonna fly in the first place (but some elites were grandfathered into this status at the time of integration).

  4. Anthony Willmott says

    I am Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite for life. I basically earn just short of the old 1,000 night lifetime threshold in 9 years before ill health forced me to give up work, as I was so close I was allowed to remain at Platinum until I hit the 1,000, Basically 18 months later, since then it reduced to 750 nights, and when Bonvoy launched it reduced to 600 nights for Platinum.

    I like the benefits I get, and often it’s enough to sway me to stay at a Marriott property than say an IHG property, lounge access/complimentary breakfast is the thing that sways it most. If I had been able to maintain my SPG gold, then I would be around 1,300 nights. I have IHG Spire via a recent status match, ok the free drink at the bar is nice, but not as valuable as lounge access or free breakfast.

    I also own a Marriott Timeshare and as a result I am wedded to Marriott. When I worked I made a point of always finding a Marriott.

    So for me it’s worth it!

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